A Guide to Outlining: Outlining Discussion

 




In this blog post I am answering various questions on outlining. Some of these are questions you have asked, and some are general questions that might help you outline your project. I hope this conclusion to this blog series helps you! 

Can I outline with two protagonists, and two points of view? 

Lucky Foster (she has a blog, go check out Lucky Reviews!) asked if you can outline with two protagonists. When you are outlining, outline in third person. When you are drafting you can add the character's thoughts in first person. Just make sure it follows the story structure you want to use! Unfortunately, the book Save the Cat Writes a Novel is more geared towards one point of view, but you can definitely change it so it can work for you! 

Should I outline in a chronological order?

Mostafa asks, "Many stories have a nonlinear narrative, with a lot of flashbacks and fast back-and-forth movements in time. When you write your outline, do you write the events in a chronological order or in the non-linear format that you intend to tell the story?" 

This is a great question! The answer to this question depends on you, your story, and creative thinking.

 I do various drafts of my outline, various different versions. My first draft is an outline of everything that happens in chronological order.  The outline starts with the earliest flashback (if that applies to my story) and ends with the epilogue, if that applies. Everything else falls in between. 

The second draft of my outline is based on the Save The Cat Writes a Novel beat sheet. If you want to learn about that, check out this blog post. This is a smaller version of my outline, usually 5-8 pages. In this outline, I don't go into very much detail, only the main points of my book. 

The third draft of my outline is the bigger and final version, which goes chapter by chapter and part by part. I definitely recommend you do different versions and stages of outlining, if you do detailed outlines. 

If I am stuck in a particular point in my outline, I convert what I have so far into a slideshow (you can read more about that later in this post!) 

How do I know which method to draft my novel with?

If you are not familiar with the term, pantsing means that you jump into your draft with a vague idea of what will happen in your mind. I outline and pants my books, it really just depends on the project I am working on. 

For example, the sci-fi fantasy novel I am currently outlining is a lot more complex than my middle grade novella, and I felt like the novella didn't need to be outlined. For me, I need to jump into the book and write at least 3 chapters to really know how I will outline my project, if I outline at all.

For my current science fiction, I actually wrote more than 10,000 words before realizing I needed to outline. I know that this sounds like quite a tedious process and there are other ways to know which you want to do. 

If it is not your first project, think of your previous one. Did you outline? If you did, did you benefit from it? If you pantsed, did it work well? This tactic especially works if you are writing in a similar genre.

How does plotting compare to pantsing?

All I can say for this is that it works differently for different people. I know that isn't really the answer you want, but it is the best thing I can say. But I will say that you read Save the Cat Writes A Novel before deciding if you want to outline or discovery write a novel. 

I personally let my project pick my method of outlining. Sometimes I feel that a project needs to be outlined with extreme detail, but sometimes I might want to do a quick summary before I dive in. Think about what the project means to you, and how you have worked in the past. 

Outlining with... a slideshow?

As I briefly mentioned above, I might use a slideshow to display my outline. I might add pictures for each scene. (usually from Pinterest, read this blog post about how I use Pinterest for my novel.) This is a great way to organize your outline if you are a visual person. 

You can also use the slideshow to explain to another person your ideas for the novel. Talking it out (especially to a person, not your teddy bear) can help you get your ideas if you feel like your outline is all over the place.

Resources

Of course I recommend the book Save The Cat Writes A Novel, but there are also a few online sources I keep coming back to. 

1. How To Plot A Novel In One Hour was a life saver with my current outline. I made such a complex outline with twists and turns that I got stuck in. I eventually came across this post through Pinterest and it helped tremendously. I stopped using my huge outline and made a simple but detailed version. 

2. Check out Reedsy's Guide to Character Profiles. If you aren't already familiar with Reedsy, it is an author's marketplace where you can find Editors and a Street Team for your self published book. However, it also has detailed and useful posts about writing. 

I could go on about Reedsy forever! They have weekly writing prompts too, which are useful if you love writing Short Stories, or just need to break through your writer's block. 

(They have their own Youtube Channel if you prefer learning by watching a video!)  

Anyway, this Character Profile Guide is something I use for each and every character, choosing which questions I want to answer. 


I hope this proves useful!

~Leila Bricket

Comments

  1. Sometimes we have a good idea for writing a story but we do not know how to begin. It’s rather annoying to keep a story in your mind for a long time but not being able to start writing it. Pantsing seems to be a good technique to overcome the mental barriers and start writing a story. I had not heard about this technique before. It is a really helpful idea. Altogether, I learned a lot from these “Outlining” series. Thank you.

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